If you haven’t heard about the Eldred act, a.k.a. Public Domain Enhancement Act, it’s a proposition, championed by Larry Lessig, that would offer a 50 year copyright term, renewable for a nominal fee. It was recently introduced as a bill to the US congress.
What I don’t fully understand is why the right owners don’t jump on the idea. The fees for renewal seem like they would be, for the foreseeable future, cheaper than the lobbying and litigation required to secure yet another extension of the basic copyright term. So in effect, it’s a perpetual copyright for all (even moderately) successful right owners, giving them at the same time a larger public domain pool to borrow from.
I am also puzzled (and maybe someone addressed this already) as how this fits in with Berne, that requires no registration formalities to get the full effect from copyrights. Or is it no formalities for the minimal life + 50 term of Berne?
The Eldred FAQ mentions this and I wonder what would happen if a longer term than life + 50 (which might not even be shorter than the publication + 50 term proposed in the Eldred Act in the case of posthumous works) was mandated by another treaty.
If we consider the raw deal, given the current US term of 95 years for work for hire, it would give 45 years less to the basic term. It would also add only 5 years to the current term for 1$ and at the burden of registration (exclusively for taxation purposes according to the Eldred web site). However, after that the ball keeps rolling and each renewal brings economies of scale. A more realistic deal that the Founder’s Copyright proposition.
It is also « better » than the current system in that it allows for perpetual ownership, although it is weird to talk about perpetuity when the current system has been in place for about 300 years, which could be viewed as 3 generations of works given the current terms…
It’s a very pragmatic solution. And I think it might even work very smoothly in practice. The obvious drawback being the identification of works needing registration. It might not always be obvious to sort out ownership in cases where there is a conflict during registration (we’d see people fighting to pay a tax…) or when there is an unclear title on a work. It also requires the identification of individual works prior to a infringement claim, which might not be obvious in some contexts.
Given the outcome of the Eldred case and the general trend in over protecting right owners against the perceived threat of piracy, this approach could be a better solution than following through with an effort to keep closer to what I consider the spirit of copyright: a situation under which all authors and works would be equally treated and no registration (or taxation) of works would bear any influence on the actual rights of those authors.
Therefore I’m not sure I like the Eldred proposition.
I’m not sold to the idea, but I do think it is an interesting and thought provoking proposition, and I don’t understand why the MPAA/RIAA et cie is not lobbying with Lessig for this. Would a 95 years initial term + 50 be an acceptable solution for them? Or do they feel the burden of sorting out ownership for registration in any context would be too much in any case? Do they fell they’ll see more profits coming from numerous incremental augmentations of the copyright term? Does this plan clash with the hope that copyright has no term, will eventually be considered like a property title and become a permanent and transmissible right?
Comme le dit éloquemment Environnement Canada:
CHALEUR AND D’HUMIDITE ACCABLANTES WARNING FOR MONTREAL METROPOLITAIN-LAVAL CONTINUED
[Via Montreal city weblog]
( MàJ: corrigé l’URL de Montreal city weblog. Mon aggrégateur a de la misère avec son fil RSS)
Mazda a tué la Protegé5!
Bon, peut-être pas, on l’appellera plutôt la Mazda3 à partir de 2004…
Et ça aura l’air de ceci :
99% du lectorat de ce site web roule en Protegé5 (j’exagère à peine!), alors cette nouvelle est d’une importance capitale!